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Localisation, Participation and Communication: an Introduction to Good PGIS Practice

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CTA Presents Localisation Participation Communication An Introduction to Good PGIS Practice Like all other maps, this is a drawing to scale of a portion of the earth's surface ... ... on which natural and man-made features are depicted by symbols, lines, and colours. A Brief History of Maps Maps have been used by societies from around the world for many centuries, ... ... and have helped shape the way that we view resources, space, and ... ... human's connection to the land and sea. Historically, mapping was the preserve of the powerful, ... ... royalty, governments, explorers, and the military. Over time, those experts creating maps developed conventions and norms ... ... to compare data and share spatial information. A common spatial language slowly developed and spread throughout the world ... ... as these powers mapped the lands they ruled over. Maps have changed the way in which we interact, and perceive our Earth. They've helped create order, and structure the way that we understand our world. But with the inmense power to shape and define different versions of reality, ... ... they have also contributed to conflict and injustice. Africa ... the sinister... the mysterious... the unknown! The apparent facts presented by the objective face of a map are persuasive, ... ... yet they mask a subjective agenda lying beneath the colours and symbols. With every map there is a creator, and the map reflects their needs and motives, ... ... and with these, the power to define and delineate the lands presented on it. Today, anyone can access spatial information. Using maps in paper form or on the internet, ... ... the world can be viewed in great detail by those who historically have had no access ... ... to this wealth of spatial knowledge. As we enter the 21st century, geo-spatial information technologies ... ... are evolving like never before. We have open access to public domain mapping technology of a high quality. Mapping no longer needs to be the preserve only of governments, ... ... but is rapidly becoming a medium which almost any person can both access and use. The future of maps is changing as is their potential to address pressing social and ... ... environmental concerns and aspirations. The Need for Communication Today's globalised world demands an ability to communicate knowledge and ideas in a certain way, ... ... within established legal and political frameworks and in a laguage ... ... that is understood by official bodies. Being a part of this system, and being able to communicate within it, ... ... requires layers of acquired knowledge: behavioural norms, the written word, ... ... computer skills, and regulatory environments; to mention a few. Some are better equipped to express themselves in this system, ... ... and not surprisingly, others are excluded, alienated, and disempowered. Many of these groups have lived on the land for generations, ... ... and are facing encroachment on their lands by logging companies ... ... and mining companies. Local knowledge is still not accepted enough, ... ... it's not sufficiently accepted in questions of land rights, land entitlements, ... ... good practice, and natural resource management. So we've got ourselves into a situation where people are living at one lifestyle level, ... ... where they are extracting a great deal of natural resources from the planet; ... ... fossil fuels, minerals, wood, other resources, and there are ... ... other people who have lived as custodians of those resources, ... ... and now there's a crisis. Across the globe, from the depths of the Amazon rainforest, to the hills of Siberia, ... ... local communities, many of whom still observe traditional practices, ... ... are beginning to feel the burden of these changes. From claims on their lands and resources, to the erosion of culture and tradition, ... ... the probability of exclusion and disempowerement for these communities, ... ... who have very little command of the 'language' of globalisation, is great. Providing the tools, and the practices to help bridge this communication gap ... ... is a key goal for the PGIS community of pratice. The Emergence of PGIS Practice Through the 1970's, development practice gave little importance to the abilities ... ... of local communities of being involved in problem solving. The thinking generally, was that outside agencies knew better and that ... ... local communities didn't have the capacities or the education to be of much use. In the 70's, we outsiders, proffesionals, we used to find out about rural situations, ... ... using questionnaire surveys, or with social-anthropological techniques. Then we became very frustrated with that, so we started inventing all sorts of methods. One of the things we were doing to try to understand about the environment ... ... was to go and make a sketch map. Then we began to realize, it was a real breakthrough, ... ... that people could make their own maps. And mapping became the way in which we started participatory rural appraisal, ... ... because people love making maps. To be increasingly effective in communicating spatial issues, ... ... participatory mapping evolved overtime from drawing lines in the sand, ... ... or sketching on large sheets of paper, to using theodolites, ... ... and measuring tapes, and later on Global Positioning Systems or GPS. By the turn of the century, significant changes took place in the world of mapping, ... ... as information technology was changing the way that maps ... ... were being made and used. The digitisation of spatial data made them more accessible, shareable and useable. As the access to data and technology increased, the opportunities for their use ... ... within bottom-up development contexts became more attractive. Practitioners, activists, and researchers from around the world ... ... began to look at the application of mapping in a different light. In essence, innovative technologies offered an opportunity for gathering, ... ... analysing, visualising, and sharing spatial information via a medium which could attract ... ... the attention and respect of decision and policy makers, ... ... and could at the same time be a true expression of the people who made the maps. Now the 'tool box' is vast. From traditional surveying instruments and more advanced GPS devices, 3D models, ... ... remote sensed imagery, online geotagging, and other Web 2.0 technologies. Making such technologies available to disadvantaged groups ... ... has offered them the opportunity to enhance their capacity in addressing ... ... their perceived problems and aspirations, and to communicate more effectively. About PGIS Practice Participatory GIS practice is the result of a merger of Participatory Learning ... ... and Action methods with Geographic Information Technologies. Mapping methods range from those that require very few resources, ... ... such as ground maps, to those using sophisticated technologies and equipment, ... ... such as remote sensed imagery. A broad selection of mapping and communication tools ... ... is nowadays available to address map-making purposes, ... ... taking into consideration locally available resources and skills. PGIS gives local and indigenous communities the possibility .... ... to put their knowledge of the land, ... ... their resources, and their space into a language that others can understand. One page of map talks louder than ten pages of writing. It gives much more power to local communities. With the help of PGIS the indigenous communities gain confidence, ... ... and other people have much more respect for them, and it opens ... ... a way to discussions and to solutions. So it's local people themselves using their own terminology. Drawing it visually so they can sit around in a group, and look at it together ... ... in colour. This mapping process, is a way to awaken people, ... ... and make them realise that they are the ones who can make the changes, ... ... so it's a self organising process; they are the ones who make their own questions, ... ... they are the ones who make their own maps, ... ... and they are the ones who will be using their maps to stregthen their own process. If appropiately used, PGIS practice can contribute to community empowerement, ... ... innovation, and social change. However, it may also trigger unintended and potentially negative consequences. As an example, locating sensitive information on maps may open the doors to abuse ... ... and misuse. Likewise, the drawing of a line on a map to exemplify a border ... ... may ignite conflict. Though PGIS processes may lead to diverging impacts, there are ways ... ... to ensure that risks are mitigated and that the process is mindful ... ... and ethically correct. Ethics PGIS practice is not based on a rigid process, and there is no blueprint approach ... ... fitting all situations. Usually, it is based on demand-driven, community-centred processes, ... ... facilitated by trusted technology intermediaries. The community and the intermediaries need to be open and transparent ... ... on their own agendas, and how these may complement each other, ... ... and/or diverge. Basic to the issues around behaviour, attitudes, and ethics ... ... are what we call the "Who" and the "Whose" questions. The fundamental ones are really "Whose reality is being expressed?" "Who is being empowered?" "Who is being disempowered?" "Who gains and who loses?" And those questions can be asked all the way through. It's always really important to ask about the realities being expressed, ... ... and whose they are, ... ... and what effect their expression is going to have. The questions about who is going to use the information, ... ... who is going to have access to it, is also a question to be asked ... ... all the way through. But underlying this is a very basic attitude, which is critical. It's "They can do it." When we have confidence that people can do it, they will show ... ... what they can do. If we don't have confidence that they can do it, they will feel disempowered, ... ... they will feel, "I've got to learn it from you, I can't invent it, ... ... or create it for myself, you are the teacher, you are the guru, I need to learn from you." There is another expression that we've got which we use a lot, ... "Hand over the stick" comes from the early days of participatory ... ... mapping in the early 90's. Because very often you'd be standing around saying ... "Could you make a map?", and the people would be standing around like this, ... "We can't make a map, we don't know, that's what you educated people can do." And then you have a stick, and you start: ... There is a road over there! Then you draw a little bit of the road, and then you hand over the stick to somebody. You actually physically hand over the stick. They take the stick and they start. Then it just takes off, and you have to stand back, and not interfere. People will show what they want to show, what's important to them, ... ... and people will correct one another, ... ... and they will build up a composite picture of their community, ... ... or whatever it is that they want to map. So the attitudes that go with "They can do it" and "Hand over the stick" ... ... are fundamental, and they are very difficult for a lot of professionals, ... ... because we're taught to teach. We're taught something, and then we have the idea that we go and ... ... we teach that to other people. It's not like that at all, it's a very different sort of being, ... ... a very different sort of relating to people being a facilitator, ... ... compared to being a teacher. But the danger with all this, is getting too complicated and ... ... making it all seem too difficult; "Oh my gosh, there's something like 30 or 40 ... ... who-whose questions, I've got to have that checklist and I've got to tick through it ... ... and ask myself all these questions." It's not like that. It should be being aware that there are a lot of issues like this, and ... ... continuously reflecting on the process as it goes forward. And it's much more dependent on the sensitivity, intelligence, awareness, ... ... and commitment of the person who's facilitating. The mapping process does not necessarily have a set timeframe, ... The map generally emerges over the course of the process, and then evolves ... ... with a life of its own. While it's important to be aware of the non restrictive chronology of the practice, ... ... it can be useful to think of it in three main phases. A community groundwork phase including planning, ... ... the mapping itself, including spatial data collection, analysis, and visualisation, ... ... and the phase following the completion of the maps, ... ... in other words, what is done with the maps, and what happens next. Phase 1 Planning Those facilitating PGIS should always think about the best technology ... ... for the communities. Which kind of technology will I help the community to use? It's about giving the technology to the communities for them to use it. It's very important to look at the technology which suits the community, ... ... which will enable the community to be able to use it. A formidable challenge to realising the potential that PGIS-related applications offer ... ... is the widespread lack of effective ... ... administrative mechanisms and structures. Although legislation in some countries has enabled the operation of PGIS practice, ... ... the lack of enabling environments or even the presence of disabling regulatory instruments, ... ... presents a serious obstacle to PGIS adoption and application. Accordingly, it may be necessary to reconcile formal and traditional institutions ... ... to produce enabling environments that allow for effective PGIS application. Fundamental to this is the practice of good governance. Good governance is about the relationships between the people who are providing ... ... the information into the PGIS and the people who are going to use it. And those people who are going to use it, are the local people themselves, ... ... but they are also the outside agencies. So good governance concerns how those relationships are made. It means there should be a respect on both sides, ... ... it's a two way process of respect. This is a very flexible and emergent methodology. It's inspired by the process of the local people. So you don't have a fixed agenda, but you try to read and ... ... what the story of the people has been, and then create a methodology. PGIS exercise with communities is a long term process. When you are planning, you should never do the planning alone. You should always involve communities that you are planning to help, ... ... or with whom you are planning to work. Once the process is initiated, then the design of a process should be ... ... more participatory rather than less participatory. Which means the local community should be involved in the design process; ... ... which aspects are going to be looked at, which resources are going to be looked at, ... ... what sort of boundaries are going to be included. It's really important to understand things from their point of view. To see and try to appreciate what they can gain out of the process. Who's participating in who's mapping? Whose map is it going to be? What is it going to be used for? Who can it empower? Who may it disempower? It may disempower people within the community. Those are fairly basic questions to ask at the beginning of a process, ... ... but then to continue to ask those questions as the process unfolds, and emerges, ... ... and evolves, and develops. What is extremely important is that whoever facilitates, the technology intermediaries ... ... who are facilitating this process, build into the project design a communication strategy ... ... which can help map makers communicate their grievances, ... ... their aspirations, to those who are going to take decisions on ... ... how to go about that. Phase 2: Mapping Even though the process has a life of its own, ... ... it's important that somebody is leading and encouraging that. But those persons that are accompanying the process have to be really aware ... ... of how important it is to let chaos emerge. And then out of that chaos, order comes. So when they confront themselves with a blank piece of paper, ... ... probably not understanding what the questions are, ... ... and then they just feel comfortable, and understand, that they have the knowledge. They don't have to ask anybody else; ... it just comes. And people start writing, and asking questions, and discussing among each other, ... ... even though confusion may still be there. That's how processes evolve: out of disorder, and out of confusion. Allowing people to find out for themselves what works, and what doesn't work, ... ... rather than laying down absolutely fixed rigid rules, ... ... "do it this way, that way, this way" ... That's very very important. You should never rush while doing participatory mapping, you should never rush. You should take the time. It's time consuming. You should always take time to go there, ... ... to spend time with them. To build community confidence. It's not just about the technology, but it's also about ... ... how you behave with them. When you go to the communities, how do you dress? Where do you live? Do you come to the community and during the evening ... ... you go back to the big town to live? Or, do you come to the community, you spend time ... ... with them, you eat their food, you drink with them, you do everything with them. These are very key elements. It shows that you are respecting them, it shows that you are not like others, ... ... and this makes all the difference. After I go back, I will give this CyberTracker to Moses, and then ... ... he will download the information to his computer. All the information that I was gathering by mapping. Sometimes you tend to leave behind all the tensions and the pain, ... ... but sometimes it's very important to bring that tension and that pain out. So that people can really feel powerful again, and not powerless ... ... because things can't be changed. We did not know how to move forward. But now we know which way to go. Now we can stand together and do one thing. I can see the way we are going to revive our culture. We must stay together and do this. If one is really willing to make a difference, ... ... it is essential to start by doing research, and making maps. To engage the central government in talks and make ... ... alternative proposals, you need to conduct research. They have hope, and they really think that they can do it together, ... ... and what they have been working on is not nonsense. It's beautiful, and it's powerful, and it's complex, and it's as important ... ... as the Western knowledge. Phase 3: Post Mapping The maps should not be the end. Maps are the beginning of a good PGIS process. One of our challenges now is to make sure that communities put in place ... ... processes that will continue. What needs to be done is to ensure that maps are used to communicate efficiently. And that happens only if networking is added to map making, ... ... if communication is added to that, so that maps can be used to ... ... effectively establish a peer to peer dialogue with policy makers and decision makers. Through communication technology, participatory videos, Web 2.0 technologies, etc., ... ... this information is being shared out to the rest of the world, ... ... so mapping and communication go hand in hand to achieve common goals. You should have cameras and all those things to take copies of what you produced ... ... with communities, and leave the originals with the community ... ... to make sure the community will keep on reflecting on it, ... ... but also they will feel confident because you are not coming to extract. Depending on the target audience you may package different messages, ... ... you may produce different media, ... ... but maps are always at the centre. Maps visualise spatial knowledge which is then localised. And right at the end one can ask, ... ... well, who gained and who lost? And why? And what can be done about it, ... ... if there is anything that's gone wrong.

Video Details

Duration: 26 minutes and 58 seconds
Country: Netherlands
Language: English
Producer: CTA
Director: Jess Phillimore
Views: 369
Posted by: giacomo on Nov 8, 2010

This 25-min educational video documentary introduces the practice of participatory spatial information management and communication (PGIS) in the development context. It has been designed to introduce development practitioners (technology intermediaries) to the practice of demand-driven PGIS.

In this video, PGIS practice is presented as a continuum starting from community mobilisation to project planning and design, choice of mapping methods and technologies, visualisation of different technologies in diverse ethno-cultural and agro-ecological environments, and finally putting the maps to work in the domains of identity building, self-determination, spatial planning and advocacy.

Ethics and sound attitudes and behaviours are emphasized as cross-cutting imperatives.

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